Research Says...


Research says…

There is no definitive “right” or “wrong” way to introduce letters.  Here are some suggestions from the National Association for the Education of Young Children:

“Children’s proficiency in letter naming is a well-established predictor of their end-of-year achievement, probably because it mediates the ability to remember sounds.  Generally a good rule according to current learning theory is to start with the more easily visualized uppercase letters, to be followed by identifying lowercase letters.  In each case, introducing just a few letters at a time, rather than many enhances mastery.”  (LEARNING TO READ AND WRITE:  DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE PRACTICES, 1998.)

The 2002 report by the National Early Literacy Panel found certain skills have direct links to children’s eventual success in literacy development.  Oral language, phonological awareness, print knowledge, and alphabet knowledge were key variables.  The study emphasized the importance of providing students with the opportunity to play with letters, link letter names and sounds, sing songs, engage in oral language activities, and draw and write independently.

Principles from learning theory and brain research can further assist in defining meaningful alphabet activities for young children:

  • Kids just want to have fun!  Focus on playful activities where children will be exposed to letters, sounds, words, and books in a variety of ways.
  • The more senses you activate, the more likely the message will get to the brain!  Children need to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch letters!
  • The brain likes novelty and challenges!  It’s got to be new and exciting to capture children’s attention.
  • Repetition with feedback is important.  Children must do things over and over again, but they must do it correctly with coaching. 
  • Prior-learning is important.  If children know a little bit about something, then it’s easier to grasp the concept when formally presented.  ABC books, rhymes, toys, and games are powerful ways to expose children to letters and sounds.
  • *The brain loves music and movement.  Songs are the most “convenient” way to learn anything!
  • Learning proceeds from simple to complex and from large to small.  Build on children’s successes in small incremental steps.
  • Everyone’s brain is unique and different.  No two children learn in the same way or at the same time.  Therefore, we must be sensitive to children’s individual styles, and we must provide them with a wide variety of opportunities to learn, play, and interact with letters and language.


Letter Office

Skills:  alphabet knowledge; left to right orientation; tracking

  • Tape two file folders together.  Let children decorate the outside; then glue a copy of the alphabet letters on the inside. 
    Have children point to the letters as you sing various alphabet songs. Letter Office
  • Children can use their fingers and point to the letters in their “Letter Office” as you sing the “Alphabet Forward and Backwards,” “The Alphabet in My Mouth,” “Who Let the Letters Out?” and other letter songs.
  • Use the offices for shared reading.  Read the capital letters, lowercase, consonants, vowels.  Read loud, soft, fast, slow, backwards, and other variations.
  • Play “I Spy” and other games where children have to identify letters.  Can they find the letter that makes the sound at the beginning of “hop”?  Can they find the letters in their name?  What comes between G and I?  Can they match up magnetic letters with the letters in their offices?
  • Focus children’s attention with one of these pointers:

Eye Can! – Glue a wiggly eye to the end of a jumbo craft stick.
Remind children to “keep their eye” on the letters as you sing them.
Magic Wand – Give each child a chopstick.  Let them dip one end
in glue, then dip it in glitter.
Witch’s Nail – These can be purchased around Halloween at a
party supply store.
Bugle – You’ll capture children’s attention with a bag of Bugle
corn chips.  Show them how to put the chip on the end of their
finger.  After pointing to the letters with the Bugle, they can eat it!
Pretzel Stick – Have children track letters or words with a pretzel.
Letter Looker – Bend a pipe cleaner to look like a magnifying glass.  Children use it to frame letters.
Giant Pointer – Cover a cardboard roller from a pants hanger with shiny paper or foil and use it for classroom activities.

Letter Wand

Skills:  alphabet knowledge; tracking
Remove the netting from a butterfly net.  (You can find these at most dollar stores.)  Add some colorful ribbons. Letter Wand Sing the song below to the tune of “Do You Know the Muffin Man?”





Do you see the letter name a letter,
         The letter ____, the letter _____?
         Do you see the letter name a letter,
         Somewhere in the room?
A child takes the wand and frames that letter as she sings:
         Yes, I see the letter _____,
         The letter ____, the letter _____.
         Yes, I see the letter _____
         In the room.


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